IATA Demands State Backing for Biofuels

by | Jun 11, 2012

Governments need to support the development of biofuels if the nascent industry is to become a staple in air travel and help reduce carbon emissions, trade body the International Air Transport Association has said.

Speaking at the group’s annual general meeting in Beijing, IATA chief executive Tony Tyler said that airlines have undertaken many flights using such fuels, but supply is low and cost is prohibitively high, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

As such, governments need to adopt policies to help support the commercialization of biofuels to “bring up the volume and bring down the price,” Tyler said, according to Businessweek. On Tuesday, the conference is devoting a panel discussing to the topic of the commercialization of biofuels. The IATA represents 240 airlines including American Airlines and British Airways. Its members comprise 84 percent of global air traffic.

The low carbon fuel is seen as a potential way for the airline industry to halt its spiraling emissions totals. Although the industry accounts for only 3 percent of global CO2 emissions, it is the fastest growing source of such gasses, Businessweek reports.

Airlines United and Alaska have been taking test flights using biofuels since November. In January, German carrier Lufthansa announced it was ending trials using biofuels to power flights due to a lack of reliable supplies. The trial saw Lufthansa carry out 1,187 biofuel flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt.

The issue of airlines’ emissions has been brought into sharp relief by the application of the European Union’s carbon trading scheme to the industry’s operations.

The trading program, which obliges airlines to buy carbon credits when flying through European airspace, has been met with disdain by numerous carriers worldwide. In December, United/Continental Airlines and American Airlines saw a legal attempt to block the scheme quashed, while UPS threatened to extend its flights in a bid to circumvent European airspace and avoid buying the credits. Estimates by Thomson Reuters Point Carbon suggest the scheme will cost airlines around €1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) in 2012.

In March, Airbus’ parent company warned that it stands to lose Chinese business if the European Commission ignores protests from airlines about the carbon trading program.

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